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Decision No. 890

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May 10 2000
In Re: Request from 2000 General Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Constitutionality of Petition #31143-DI-273-D as Amended by a Legislative Committee for Consideration by the General Conference Relating to Certified Lay Assistant

Digest of Case

Under Par. 52 of the Constitution, a bishop has no authority to appoint lay persons to charges; therefore, Petition #31143-DI-273-D as amended by a legislative committee for consideration by the General Conference would be unconstitutional if adopted. On May 10, 2000, the General Conference requested a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of Petition # 31143-DI-273 regarding duties, expectations, and process for certification of lay assistants. If adopted, this petition would add a new paragraph after ¶ 272 and would amend ¶¶ 273, 629.7(d) and 661 of the 1996 Discipline. The intent of the proposed legislation is to create a certified lay assistant category of ministry to churches of small membership "…associated with the lay preacher of early Methodism…" An oral hearing was held in Cleveland, Ohio on May 11, 2000. Arnold Rhodes, Alec Alvord, Jean Edmister, James Waugh, Jeffrey E. Greenway and Ed Kail spoke in support of constitutionality. Joy Barrett, Bob Kohler and Margaret Knight spoke in opposition to the constitutionality of the petition. The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2609 of the 1996 Discipline.

Statement of Facts

Analysis and Rationale The subject legislation proposed is similar to the 1992 Discipline paragraphs declared unconstitutional in Decision 693. That decision stated that ¶ 282 of the 1992 Discipline created a new order of clergy to be called "lay preachers" who were to be appointed by the district superintendent. The Judicial Council declared ¶ 282 unconstitutional in that it violated ¶¶ 17 and 57 of the 1992 Discipline (Par. 17 and 52 of the 1996 Discipline). The newly proposed legislation referenced above fails to meet the constitutional test in that it proposes to grant to the bishop the power to assign a lay person to a charge. Par. 52 of the Constitution is clear in its language: Article X.—The bishops shall appoint, after consultation with the district superintendents, ministers to the charges; and they shall have such responsibilities and authorities as the General Conference shall prescribe. Under this constitutional paragraph a bishop has the authority to appoint only ministers to charges.

Decision

Under Par. 52 of the Constitution, a bishop has no authority to appoint lay persons to charges; therefore, Petition #31143-DI-273-D as amended by a legislative committee for consideration by the General Conference would be unconstitutional if adopted.

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